COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease



COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. and is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. It is thought to affect approximately 3 million people in the UK but only about 900,000 have been diagnosed.

It is important these undiagnosed patients are found because, though there is no cure, early detection means the deterioration of your lungs can be slowed down. Unfortunately many patients who develop symptoms of COPD dismiss them as “smoker’s cough.”

What Are The Symptoms You Should Look Out For?

The typical symptoms of COPD are:

  • Increasing breathlessness when exercising or moving around
  • A persistent cough with phlegm that never seems to go away
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Wheezing

This is because the airways in your lungs become inflamed and narrowed and as the air sacs get permanently damaged it becomes increasingly difficult to breath. If you have any of the symptoms of COPD you should see your doctor to ensure you are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

What Causes COPD?

COPD smokerThere ares everal things that can increase you risk of developing COPD, many of which you can avoid. Smoking is the main cause of COPD. At least 4 out of 5 people who have COPD are, or have been, smokers. Around 10-25% of smokers develop COPD and unfortunately the damage cannot be reversed.

Other things that may increase your risk are:

  • Passive smoking
  • Fumes and dust
  • Air pollution
  • Having a brother or sister with the disease
  • Having a genetic tendency to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

How Is COPD Diagnosed?

If you are concerned about your breathing you should see your GP as soon as possible. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, how long you have had them, and whether you smoke or used to smoke. They will listen to your chest, check your BMI and do a lung function test called a spirometery.

How Is COPD Treated?

copd inhalerThere is no cure for COPD but the main way for people with COPD to help themselves is to stop smoking, if they do. Stopping smoking at an early stage of the disease can make a huge difference. If COPD remains mild then no other treatments may be needed. However, if it is more severe, you may be prescribed an inhaler. The inhaler will either be one to help you relax the muscles in your airways so they open up, and/or a steroid inhaler to help reduce the inflammation in your airways.

To get the most benefit from your inhalers it is important to use them correctly. A large proportion of patients do not use them properly. If you want to check your technique come in to see our pharmacist and ask for a Medicines Use Review.

What Can I Do To Help Myself?

copd stop smokingThe most important step is to stop smoking. Research shows that you are four times more likely to quit smoking if you use NHS support along with Nicotine Replacement products (NRT). If you would like more information about this why not call in to any Newline Pharmacy branch and ask to speak to our pharmacy team.

People with COPD who exercise regularly or keep active regularly have improved breathing and have less severe symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help make breathing easier, as can using breathing techniques like pacing your breathing in rhythm to an activity such as climbing the stairs.

copd exerciseFor most people who are disabled by their breathlessness a structured programme of pulmonary rehabilitation, provided by an experienced healthcare professional, does the most good. This involves a programme of exercise and education tailored to your individual needs.

Trained healthcare professionals can create exercise programmes designed to help you get the most out of exercise to limit the effects of COPD on your body.



  1. What is COPD?
  2. What are the symptoms?
  3. Why does it happen?
  4. Who is affected?
  5. How many have been diagnosed?
  6. Why is it important it should be diagnosed?
  7. How is it diagnosed?
  8. Is there a cure?
  9. How can you prevent it?
  10. How is it treated?

[expand title=”Quiz Answers”]

  1. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive airways disease
  2. Increasing breathlessness, persistent cough with phlegm, frequent chest infections
  3. The main cause is smoking, but ocassionally fumes, dust and air pollution
  4. It is thought to affect over 3 million people in the UK
  5. only 900,000
  6. Early treatment slows down the deterioration to the lungs
  7. By a GP asking about your symptoms, whether you smoke and giving you a breath test
  8. No
  9. Making changes to your lifestyle
  10. Mainly by stopping smoking and using inhalers



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